This summer’s hottest Youtube channel isn’t MrBeast or Cocomelon, it’s DaFuq!?Boom!, a meme-fueled animated shorts channel created and operated by an artist who calls himself Blugray.

DaFuq!?Boom! monopolized the top spot on the Youtube traffic tracking site Tubefilter for the entire month of May, accumulating 2.8 billion views during that time. Things didn’t slow down in June either, with the channel leading the global list for the first three weeks of the month and likely to finish in the top spot when monthly figures are released this week. The channel just reached over 7 billion total views.

A basic timeline of the Youtube channel’s growth, with significant subscriber and view count milestones, can be found here. The channel was launched on June 6, 2016, and got its 10,000th subscriber on May 18, 2017. Since then, growth has been mostly steady, but no one could have predicted what happened this spring, when the channel’s popularity exploded. DaFuq!?Boom! has picked up nearly 12 million new channel subscribers in the last month-and-a-half, whereas it took nearly seven years to reach its first five million subscribers.

Blugray’s real name is Alexey Gerasimov, and he lives and works in Georgia (the country). Gerasimov is 25 years old and has been teaching himself animation for the past nine years. He has no formal education in the field, and he has only ever worked for himself and his channel.

Alexey Gerasimov
Alexey Gerasimov

Gerasimov has published several loosely related shorts to the channel over the years, with several going viral in their own right, although nothing like what the channel is seeing right now. His short I’M AT DIP was released in March 2017 and has been viewed more than 45 million times. ULTIMATE MALE_07 COMPILATION came out last year and already has 34 million views.

But the channel’s standout series, the one that facilitated its meteoric rise in 2023, is Skibidi Toilet, an ongoing collection of shorts that chronicles a war between Skibidi Toilets and the combined forces of the Cameramen and Speakermen.

We recently spoke with Gerasimov via the official DaFuq!?Boom! Discord channel. Talking us through his production process, he explained that he uses Source Filmmaker because “it allows me to work easier and faster with assets that I need doing animation, direction, writing, and editing myself. Although I do have one person who helps me with getting assets that I need.”

According to Gerasimov, the plan was never to go viral, only to make something for himself and his audience. “At first, I tried to make something unexpected and silly,” he told Cartoon Brew. “There’s still an element of this in new episodes.”

So how did such a niche channel manage to grow exponentially in so little time? We posed that question to online trend-tracking specialist Phil Ranta about some ways that animated properties can go viral. Ranta has worked in digital media for two decades and is currently the chief operating officer at We Are Verified, a digital management agency that focuses on building businesses around content creators.

There are several factors to making it big in original digital content creation he says, but the most important is that the creator must be a good artist. DaFuq!?Boom may look rough around the edges compared to major studio fare, but there is no question that Gerasimov is a filmmaker who understands pacing, camerawork, sound design, and how to tell a story. Says Ranta:

Anybody can make crude machinima and you see it all the time on Youtube. But it takes a lot of work to create detailed videos on DaFuq!?Boom!. I think that people know deep down inside that this guy is not BS. He is really working hard to make something this kind of – and I mean this as a loving term – this kind of dumb. It’s like toilets and people making muggy faces at the camera, but you feel that’s genuine, and you understand that this is not just something that’s thrown away. This is something that deserves evaluation.

Another thing that Gerasimov does especially well is create a world and a narrative that keeps fans coming back for more. According to Ranta:

He built his audience over time and built loyalty. Sometimes time alone can help you build enough that you’re ready to hit a slipstream and really take off. I think the fact that he started by serializing the Skibidi Toilet series so people had a reason to come back, and watch was huge. You see a ton of funny, well-animated, well-produced one-offs, but that doesn’t give a viewer a lot of reason to watch the next one. With the series, it became a thing with people trying to decode the meaning. Groups were breaking down every episode on Reddit and sharing fan theories, so he had a built-up fan base for this weird, mystical series.

And of course, there is no replacement for luck:

Sometimes you have to expect the internet to take on a life of its own, and once something like this has been done once, it feels phony to do it again. You have to come up with the next thing. Like #GentleMinions from last year and how the characters were used in memes, you can’t really force that. Universal did not plan for the Minions to become that meme. They were just this perfect avatar for a childlike take on sometimes serious, almost alt-right-y trends. They created a juxtaposition that feels shocking in such a way that you stop scrolling and take notice. They didn’t make the minions to do that. The minions just became that, right?

Most artists who dedicate their time and energy to a craft will eventually want to make a career out of it. In the case of DaFuq!?Boom!, the channel does feature ads so Gerasimov receives Adsense revenue from Google. That said, Ranta thinks the channel could go bigger and broader, even though the content is far from mainstream:

I would point to like the kind of Five Nights at Freddy’s kind of thing. There’s a way to kind of twist it and turn it into something that is more commercial. Or something like Cyanide and Happiness, which launched a board game.

Whatever Gersimov decides to do with the channel in the future, there is no question that at present, it’s the hottest thing on Youtube.

Pictured at top: A screenshot from skibidi toilet 45

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